Friday, May 16, 2014

IED’s, Illicit Brews, College choices and much much more!

I just checked our blog to see how long it has been since our last post. The answer? 3 months!

Much has happened in that time so I will attempt to bring you all up to date………..


March was a difficult month for us personally. Steve’s sister Marybeth passed away after a brief and unexpected bout with cancer. We are still in shock that she is gone. Hardly having time to think about it much less grieve her passing. That is our third immediate family member to pass away this year so to just say March has been a difficult month would not suffice, this has been a difficult year with tremendous loss. 

But life must go on and go on it did! March saw us celebrate Julia’s 18th birthday! It is hard for us to grasp but our baby is now an adult! Julia is enjoying her senior year here at RVA and preparing for the next steps as she plans for her return to college in the states.


The dorm girls were busy also with schoolwork and SOCCER! These girls play soccer every moment they can and finally being able to play for RVA was exhilarating for them all to say the least. It kept them busy with practice and games and tired all term so they gave us no issues when it was time for lights out!


The end of March brought RVA’s annual cultural interim trips. This program is for 11th and 12th grade students and is a week long trip to experience different cultures in the nearby area and East African countries. This marked a new first for our family, for the first time ever the four of us were residing in four separate countries! We truly are becoming a global family. Janine remained in Kenya tending to the girls. Liz was still at Cedarville University in Ohio finishing up her second year. Julia went to Zanzibar located on the coast of Tanzania and I went to Uganda.




April began with the second term break. This is the shortest term break and RVA was hosting an international Christian education conference right smack in the middle of the break. We allowed Julia to have her friends stay with us for 5 extra days at the end of term. This would be there last chance to do this as next term they will be graduating and scattering around the US quickly to continue on to college. They had much fun and we were glad they were able to enjoy each others company. After they all left for home, The conference began. Teacher from all over East Africa and even some from Germany descended on the campus. This meant opening up the dorm and being host to 12 ladies for the week. We had cool weather that week and evening tea was a chance to share about ministries in other countries such as Ethiopia, Egypt and even some of our neighboring schools here in Kenya.


After the conference ended, we had 10 days to catch our breath and prepare for the students return for 3rd term. During this time we worked with Julia praying about her choice for college and reaching out as she shortened her list. I can attest that trying to complete this process from half way across the world and 7 hours ahead in time proved to be a difficult task. Emails seemed to sit unanswered for days and we finally resorted to staying up late so we could call back to the schools during their business hours. FINALLY after many tears and prayers, Julia has made her decision! She will be attending the University of Delaware in the fall and she will be majoring in chemical engineering!

Janine and I have no idea how our ministry will change next year with Julia back in the states. The girls in the dorm look up to her and her example of hard work has been a tremendous asset to helping these young girls settle into a routine that works for them. As this year has progressed, we have seen the girls grades improve steadily as they work to improve there base of knowledge and Julia was a large part of that success.
                                             Simba Dorm 2014!

Speaking of not knowing what our ministry will look like…….. We have been asked to move out of Simba dorm next year and move into Suswa dorm. That means we will be leaving the junior high world and now taking over a dorm that will house twenty 11th and 12th grade girls. We will not be able to be as hands on with homework and devotions, but we will be able to help walk them through the process of college selections and career choices as well as banquets, scarfing, dating and all else that goes along with that age!

We are looking forward to the new challenges in our ministry and even the possibility of some of the Simba girls returning to our care in a few years!


May has seen RVA swing into full swing with AP tests, rugby and volleyball seasons and all weekends jammed with social events for the students. This past week saw the campus filled with AIM homeschooling families as they brought their kids to RVA for testing and evaluation. This also brings our friends the Hamptons to campus so we get to spend some time with them.  :D

 May also brings Lizzy back to Kenya! She completed school on May 3rd and arrivied here on May 10th. We are so excited that she will be able to be here with us until July!

Liz jumped right in teaching environmental science to 8th graders this week. This allowed there regular teacher to assist with home school week which she has been doing for many years. Liz enjoyed it and so did the students. It is wonderful practical experience to help her with her teacher education curriculum.
May has also seen an increase in unrest here in Kenya. Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attacks in Kenya have been increased with 6 IED explosions in the past couple of weeks. The attacks are being blamed on radical Somali insurgents. They are attacking crowed areas around Kenya with two simultaneous blasts seeming to be the favorite method of attack. They attacked the bus terminal in Mombasa 2 weeks ago, two transport buses in Nairobi last week and a crowed market place in Nairobi just yesterday! Many have died and many more are injured taxing the hospitals and blood supply in this country. Pray for a peaceful resolution to this issue as too many have lost too much in these attacks.

 May also has seen the advent of a new issue here in Kenya….. Illicit Brew! It seems home made alcohol has been laced with methanol to increase the “buzz” factor. The problem? People are dying at an alarming rate from methanol poisoning! To date nearly 300 people have died and nearly 1000 have been hospitalized due to this illicit brew. It is not just one area of Kenya but has sprouted up in counties everywhere including our neighboring county of Naivasha. Please pray that these illegal brews can be identified and removed so that this epidemic will cease!

Speaking of hospitalization…… and this will be our last news upate! An issue that is very near and personal to us has finally arisen………prostate cancer. My family has a long history with this issue and we have been actively monitoring and testing to ensure that if it should arise, we catch it early and are proactive to eradicate it. My last series of tests did in fact come back positive for cancerous cells in the prostate.  Though cancer is a scary word, we are confident it has been identified in it’s infant stage and can be removed entirely. To that extent, I am scheduled for surgery in the next couple of weeks. All the pre-op test have come back clean so we truly have caught it very early. We are confident in the doctor’s abilities the state of the art capabilities of the hospital and in our Lord, Jesus that He is watching over me! It does mean, however, that I will be recovering from surgery for the better part of all of the balance of this term. Please pray for Janine, Liz and Julia as they process this issue and take on all of the burdens of the dorm. Pray for a good outcome to the impending surgery and a complete recovery.

 Thanks for staying in touch with our ministry. We Love you all!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Midterm , Winter Storms, Raspberries and Protests

Hello everyone,

We wanted to drop you all a note to let you know that we are praying for you all as you endure this harsh winter and the hardships that it has brought your way. We have been following the storms, your posts and tweets and we are glad to be missing the weather but it also brings back thoughts of how much we miss you all.

We have reached the mid-term break of term two here at RVA. This second term is compacted into 11 weeks of rock-n-roll action. We will bring you a few of the highlights:
                                                    Dorm Birthday
Second Term the girls all returned healthy and with a better understanding of what is expected from junior high students. This has led to a more harmonious dorm-life where they have settled into their dorm responsibilities and school work with more determination. Second term also means SOCCER season for the girls and they were all so excited to play!
Uncle Steve cheers the girls on!
Second term also means teaching Sunday school for Janine and I. We currently have 14 boys in our class and we are enjoying getting to know them as we teach the Armor of God.
                                                     Sunday School Class

Second term also means BANQUET for Julia. The junior class is busily preparing to host the seniors for what is the biggest event of the year! All students in the junior and senior classes will attend after they walk-up through the campus to the delight of all the remaining students and the entire staff. We will be sure to post pictures of Julia’s big night shortly after.
                                                    Julia and friends

Second term brings more freedom for Janine as she is more comfortable with driving here now and can go to town with the ladies and enjoy some time with them.

Second Term brings INTERIM TRIPS. The junior and senior classes are led by staff members on trips to explore different areas of Africa as well as different cultures. These trips take place just a month from now. Julia will be heading to Zanzibar to see this coastal part of Tanzania. She will experience the life of those who live by the sea as well as the Muslim culture that is well established there.  Pray for Julia and those on her trip that they will experience this culture and come away with a heart to reach these people for God’s Kingdom.

As a staff leader, I will take 11 students and two other staff members on a cross country drive to Uganda. The trip will take approximately twelve to thirteen hours if we have no problems. We will work with missionaries there as we experience there ministries to the Ugandan people. We will spend two days on an island in the center of Lake Victoria ministering alongside the staff of a Ugandan school located there. Lastly, we will experience the Nile river by rafting the four star rapids. Pray we all remain healthy as malaria is prominent here and that there are no substantial injuries from our rafting excursion. Pray also that we all experience the powerful ministries of our host missionaries and come away with a global perspective of God’s plan for this continent.
Second term also means raspberries and strawberries! The local farmers export their fruits to Europe. There problem is they cannot pick the fruits fast enough to guarantee a shelf life of 7 days so that they can be exported. We are more than happy to assist with that problem as they donate hundreds of pounds of fresh fruit weekly to our school. We are  becoming experts in preserving and altering recipes to utilize this bounty.
Second term has also brought heighted security alerts and protests to Kenya. The heightened security alerts are courtesy of our own American Intel warning the Kenyans that further terrorist attacks are imminent! Security in all public places has been increased especially at the airport where an IED has previously been deployed. The Kenyans are protesting publicly due to a higher cost of living and what they believe to be a lack of representation in government. Sound familiar?

We are now counting down the days until Lizzy returns! She will arrive back in Nairobi on May 10th. We are excited to have her return for an extended stay!

Well that concludes our mid-term update.
 “The Lord bless you and keep you;
 the Lord make his face shine on you
    and be gracious to you;

 Steve, Janine Julia and Lizzy too.

Saturday, December 7, 2013


A Purchaser’s Trip to Nairobi


Many of you have asked what the driving conditions are like here in Nairobi so I thought I would take you along with me on one of my trips to town.
Here are a few shots of the vehicle I drive. It is a Toyota van with a 5 speed transmission,

In order to accommodate all of the products I will be collecting, I have requested that seats be removed to provide more space. I have my two crates and a cooler that go with me. The crates are to keep things from rolling around in case of sudden stops (which there are many) the cooler is for perishable items brought home from the grocery store.


Our first sight is the gate to get off campus and access Kijabe road which will take me to the A-104 highway that takes me into Nairobi.  My first stop is to pick up a passenger.


This is John Karanga. He is my co-worker and shares many trips into town with me. John is from Kijabe. He works in the school arcade, goes into town to work to work on immigration issues for the staff and students and pastors a local church plant in the IDP (internally displaced people) camp formed after the violence of the previous elections; He is married and has two children. I drop John off downtown so that he gets a quicker start on his day. If not he would need to take several matatus (taxi’s) and his journey would be twice as long.


Here is a look at Kijabe road. The first obstacle is the tunnel. As you can see, there is barely enough room for my van to pass through. You can see the car trying to enter from the other side and sometimes these situations result in a Mexican standoff with neither party willing to back out of the tunnel. This time, the driver realized I had entered into the tunnel area and had no room to reverse out (I will explain that later) so he “graciously” allowed me passage through the tunnel first. Now we are heading up the hill towards the highway. Potholes are not uncommon, in fact they are more the norm on this road and learning to drive through this minefield is a challenge and the terrain changes daily. Also we need to deal with the other modes of transportation used locally to get there goods to the dukas (stores).
Now we are on the highway! The first half of the trip in is fairly uneventful with traffic moving at a fair pace. We do pass two police checks on our trip (sorry no pics of that) but Because we are in a school van they allow us to pass without stopping.

As we approach the first roundabout, traffic comes to a halt while drivers navigate there way through the roundabout with an “every man for himself” attitude. There are police present to assist traffic from backing up, but more times than not, they only cause more confusion.


Now we are in downtown Nairobi. I have some pictures for you to see and you will notice the donkey carts and “man” carts are as effective as automobiles as they have the same rights to the road. I won’t bore you with the details of my stops this day, but I wanted to show you  the sights.

Sometimes I underestimate the amount of things I am collecting and am forced to improvise.

Finally I am on the way home, back up the highway! I needed to make one last stop before going home to pick up some groceries and to use the ATM
to get some cash. I snuck this picture of the guard at the ATM and yes, that is an AK-47! Does that make you feel safe?

Further up the highway after leaving downtown Nairobi, you can see the roadside vendors are now open for business!


Finally it is back down Kijabe road across the one lane bridge, through the pothole minefield and through the tunnel, almost home! I wanted you to see why I mentioned I could not reverse out of the tunnel. Here is the view as you come through the tunnel on the way back. The mudslides last year devastated this area. The white rocks are meant to be a warning and you can see why they are there!

I am safely back on campus and just need to unload my van and return it to the vehicle shop. I hope you enjoyed this look at a trip to town. I had fun doing it. And for you statistics people…. The total mileage was 146 km and the total trip time was 6.5 hours!


Friday, December 6, 2013

Update December 2013

Dear Family and Friends,
We are finishing up this year’s annual Eastern Africa Regional Conference. It has been really an amazing time. 2 Corinthians - God's Grace is Sufficient - Paul mourns over the corruption going on in Corinth and writes of how he rebukes them for Christ. Paul wants us to remember, in our daily strife we need to continue to yield fully to the Gospel - keeping our focus on the investment Jesus made for us by giving His all for me at the cross. Felt like a slap in the face - how we choose to let our weariness take over our life. Also there were workshops - one on 'being a disciple' - another slap - just loving others isn't enough we need to disciple them to be disciples. We need to be more available to share God's truth.
Well we are comforted by this time of refreshment and teaching - meeting people from all over Kenya and Tanzania - learning how the 'real missionaries' face struggles and have victories for the gospel all at once. How when we are weakened enough we are more accepting of God's Grace. It is a great encouragement to see this reality in life. Not just assuming we are the only ones feeling discouraged and weary.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thoughts and prayers in the aftermath of the West Gate mall tragedy

Please note: This was written one week after the attack at Westgate Mall but due to the craziness of our lives recently, I was never able to post it.
It has been a crazy week here with all that has happened in Nairobi. There has been unbelievable turmoil and devastation as the events surrounding the siege at West Gate Mall. Many here in Nairobi are saying that this is the equivalent to their “9/11” that will rally this country to be unified across political parties to work for the better good of Kenya. I truly pray that that will prove to be true. 

The events at West Gate mall have hit home for so many here at RVA. It is the most western style mall here and one that most if not all of the staff frequented on a regular basis. It truly was designed to provide all your needs under one roof. There were cafes and restaurants to eat at, movie theaters, groceries, communication providers, pharmacies and clothing stores as well as a branch of every major bank in Kenya. These amenities made the mall attractive to ex-patriots as well as the upper echelon of Kenya.

Unfortunately, we have learned that this made the mall an attractive soft target for Al-Shabbab forces to attack. The events that unfolded that day were truly horrendous. The death toll stands at 67 which are expected to rise as the authorities dig through the rubble that was once the mall. As of today, there are 61 people reported as missing and about 250 others who sustained injuries that they will survive.


How will those who were at the mall be able to put this behind them and move on?

They have lost so much physically and emotionally. Here at RVA we were enjoying Titchie field day, a day where the school celebrates our elementary school-aged students with field games and events. Along with that, the seniors were hosting a “Senior Store” day where they serve lunch and other goodies to raise money for their senior safari later this year. Julia was busy serving as manager of the specialty food service and was fully involved in that process. Around 1:30 PM word began to circulate about what was happening at West Gate, only 45 kilometers from our campus. Immediately the school implemented many of the contingency plans we have trained on over and over. The campus was full of guests and family members so we needed to work quietly to keep from raising unnecessary alarm. First, we needed to account for everyone, who was on campus and who was not. We were charged with verifying the whereabouts of all our dorm girls and their families. We quietly spoke to those who had plans to return to their homes in Nairobi and advised them to use an alternate route and avoid the Westland’s area where the mall was located. Next we called the families that had left campus and advised them of the situation. We came to realize that three RVA students and their families were at the mall at the time of the attack and were still inside the building. One family managed to work their way out quickly but the other two remained inside for many hours and one family had to play dead for awhile when the terrorists were in near proximity. We are thankful that they all were eventually led to safety. We did however, have one student who lost three extended family members in the attack. The entire campus is grieving with him as he mourns family members killed in the attack.

So what lessons can we take from this vicious attack?

First and foremost, we must remember who is ultimately in control.

We have spent this entire week reminding the students of the promises God has made to never leave nor forsake us. We have used chapel times, dorm times and Sunday’s services to do just that. We will continue to pray for those affected by this tragedy especially those in our own RVA family. We will pray for other school communities as they have suffered far greater injuries and loss of life. We are trying to find ways to reach out to them and share the love of Jesus.

 From a practical standpoint, when we go to town, we will always have a fully charged cell phone (or two) and enough cell credit to make any necessary calls. We will ALWAYS make sure someone on campus knows where we are headed and how to get in touch with us. We will NEVER separate from each other as we have done in the past and we WILL be efficient in what we have to do and then return to the safety of campus.

When I travel for school, I will make sure my plans for the day are known to the administrative team including where I am going and what times I expect to be in that area. I will try not to travel alone and be diligent to finish as quickly as possible.

 As we have witnessed the events of this week, we have seen the resiliency of the Kenyan people as they joined together to meets the needs of all. The long lines at all blood donation centers set-up throughout the country was just one testimony to their unification. We will continue to pray for healing for this nation as they attempt to move forward. It has been an emotional week for us all, but we rest assured that we are in the hands of the One who created us.

 We want to leave you with the lyrics of the Kenyan national anthem as our prayer for all of Kenya.

V1    O God of all creation
Bless this our land and nation
Justice be our shield and defender
May we dwell in unity
Peace and liberty
Plenty be found within our borders.

V2    Let one and all arise
With hearts both strong and true
Service be our earnest endeavor
And our homeland of Kenya
Heritage of splendor
Firm may we stand to defend.

V3    Let all with one accord
In common bond united
Build this our nation together
And the glory of Kenya
The fruit of our labor
Fill every heart with thanksgiving

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Greetings from RVA,

 We returned safely and without any travel issues. The following day, Janine went to a faculty meeting while I went to work to wade through weeks of paperwork awaiting my return. The next two days were filled by all day staff meetings. Throughout these days we struggled with adjusting back to Kenya’s time zone and fighting off jet lag. Thursday was an off-day which allowed us to travel into Nairobi to get supplies for our house as well as Janine’s cooking classes. We left very early to beat the crowds and so that we could return early enough to decorate the dorm for the girls. Friday all new students to RVA arrived with their parents for a day of orientation. We have 5 girls in our dorm who are new to RVA and to boarding school as well. On Saturday, their parents left and all the returning students arrived on campus. All together, we have 12 girls living in our dorm ranging in age from 11 to 13 years-old.


We have now been back in school for 1 week. Our week has been filled with teaching classes (Janine), town trips for me (3 in one week) and Julia diving into her classes.

The girls have not yet settled into a routine and we still have many things to work out. It seems hard to believe that these 7th grade girls seem so much younger than the eighth grade girls we cared for last year, but they really are. In many ways, that works to our advantage. Janine is trying really hard to establish a bedtime routine that allows her to visit with each room, review the day and talk about what is on their minds, and pray with them before they go to sleep. We have been able to establish phone parameters from day one that took us most of the year last year to establish. We are praying that their access to technology is managed so that they truly benefit from what is available. We realize that we will need to be much more hands on this year and we are looking forward to investing in the girls lives and teaching them to live in a Christ-like manner.


This weekend was filled with welcome back events for the students. Friday night we had our first dorm night, which is a chance for us to just be with the girls and learn a little about them. We had a fairly extensive menu planned but circumstances prevented all our prep work from being completed. Our inside worker, Margaret was injured in an auto accident that required her to be hospitalized and have surgery to repair injuries she received. She was discharged late Friday evening and is home with her family. Please join us in praying for her complete healing from the injuries she received.

 Janine worked diligently to prepare all afternoon and the girls had a great time and were very grateful. I helped Janine a little but had to leave to go coach basketball for the 7th and 8th grade girls. I will use my Upwards experience to coach while connecting on a new level with all the junior high girls. 

 Saturday brought us to our first big event, “Splash Day”. This is a day designed for all junior high students to travel together for a day of swimming and fun at a school in Nairobi that allows us to rent their swimming facilities for this event. The drive in was a bit difficult as we drove through clouds and rain, navigated many broken-down vehicles and generally dealt with heavy traffic. We prayed for the sun to show and later in the day it did! The girls all had fun and Janine and I enjoyed the trip as well.


Sunday the entire campus went to church in Kijabe at the local Africa Inland Church( AIC) located directly across the street from our service gate. This allows us to fellowship with the local community and support the many ministries they are involved with. Because this service is early in the morning, it allows us time to recharge and prepare for the coming week.

We hope you enjoyed our update. We miss all of you !

All our love,

Steve, Janine Julia and Lizzy too!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A New beginning

Happy New Year everyone! We have been busy and it is time to bring you all up to speed.

At the end of November, the school term ended and all the girls moved out of the dorm and went home to spend Christmas with their families. Before they left, we had a "dorm family" Christmas celebration with the girls that included a dinner we all prepared together, a secret santa gift exchange and a late-night showing of that wonderful Christmas Classic "Elf"

We stayed on campus and eagerly awaited Lizzy's arrival for a Christmas holiday of our own here in Kijabe. The weather was not vey cooperative as we experienced more rain than anticipated and the evenings were damp and cold. And this is supposed to be our warm, dry season! We did not care as we just spent time together as a family and that is okay with us.

On Christmas Eve we participated in an RVA outreach to people in our local community. We delivered Christmas hampers filled with necessities such as flour, oil, sugar, salt and other items that are used regularly. We visited with familes and prayed for the upcoming year for their specific needs. With all the rain we had experienced, it was a joyfully muddy experience!

The dorm was eerily quiet without our 12, 8th grade girls running around. The maintenance department took care of that though as they decided to do some much needed work in both our living area and the dorm.Workers showed up every day at 8:45 AM and worked through the day scraping, sanding, painting and replacing floor tiles. We cleaned every night trying to keep the dust to a minimum then we realized we were fighting a losing battle but it was a battle we needed to continue since we were living amid the work. Thankfully, that is all behind us now and we are simply dealing with the normal dust issues that come with living at RVA.  :D

Lioness sitting on her kill (zebra)

Best Friends: Cape Buffalo and Rhino grazing together.
We did manage to take a day trip to Nakkuru National Park and take a game drive to see the amazing wildlife that lives there. Thanks to Brian Wagner, math teacher and game park guide extrodinaire, we had a blast! I have posted a complete picture catalog at  If you have a minute, feel free to enjoy the pictures we managed to capture in the park.
                                      Elan: World's largest antelope

Our Christmas holiday was wonderful as we were all together to enjoy it. It was fairly uneventful and Julia found the pickle again this year! We enjoyed visiting with staff members and their families that came to visit. One boy told me he would keep an eye on me in the arcade store as he did not think I was responsible enough to handle the store! I hope that I can grow into that responsibility some day.  :D

The new term is now underway. With the Kenyan elections scheduled for early March, most activities  and sporting events have been front loaded this term. If the election does not have a peaceful outcome, we will be able to stay within campus limits and still function as normally as possible. Our administrative team is doing a great job of keeping us in the loop of contingency plans and safety precautions.

Thank you for continuing to pray for us. We appreciate each and every one of you!